November 20, 2013 Wednesday Class - the simultaneity of consciousness and awareness

November 20, 2013 Wednesday, Consciousness Class

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. I want to provide a bit of intellectual framework for what we're doing with vipassana and pure awareness practice. Some of it goes back to basics of vipassana. For some of you this is oft-heard review. Please bear with me.

Here, as humans, you have four bodies: the physical, the emotional, the mental, and spirit body. Each is a bit higher vibration and refined than the last. The physical body is the heaviest vibration. In vipassana we work with the physical, emotional, and mental bodies, at the beginning, bringing in spirit body only later.

There is contact with an object through the body or the mind. When contact occurs, eye touching the cushion, mind touching a thought, consciousness arises. This is mundane consciousness. The Pali language word for consciousness is citta. This is kuttara citta, or mundane consciousness.

When there is consciousness, that consciousness serves as condition for the arising of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feelings. It also serves as condition for the arising of perception of what it is that has arisen, such as a memory or seeing a zafu. If it's very pleasant, there may be liking of the object. If it's very unpleasant, dislike. And then mental formations may arise based on the condition of the liking or disliking, so that there may be a shift into attachment or aversion. Or if it is neutral, just seeing the gray rug: not strongly pleasant, not unpleasant, just a rug. Now, how long would you want to sit and look at that rug? Mind would get bored and want to go someplace else. So with neutral, there's often some form of subtle aversion, boredom, wanting something more entertaining.

With vipassana we watch this flow of conditioned thought arising and passing away, conditioned body experience arising and passing away. The Pali words nama and rupa mean mind and body. We watch the interrelationship of mind and body. We're still very much in the conditioned level of being. Mundane body, mundane thoughts. We may watch this for a half an hour or for ten years, but eventually we catch on to the fact that everything is truly arising out of conditions, is impermanent, and is not of the nature of a separate self.

“not a separate self” does not mean that nothing exists. That's a nihilistic viewpoint. Something exists. The Buddha says, “Monks, there is an Unborn, Undying, Unchanging, Uncreated. If it were not so, there would be no reason for our lives.”  (Udana 8:3)1 You are that, but you think yourself to be these skandhas—the body, the mind, the feelings and perceptions, even consciousness, and you become self-identified with them. And then you keep trying to fix them, to improve them, to change them, rather than simply knowing they are as they are presenting in this moment as an expression of conditions.

So if a driver cuts you off and anger arises, you don't say to yourself, “No, I won't be angry.” which is just more anger. But you note, “Anger has arisen in this mind and body out of certain old conditioning. If a driver drives carelessly and cuts me off, I could get killed. Others could get killed. I don't want others to drive that way. I don't want to drive that way. This anger is a result of this old conditioning. I offer metta to this human, who is thusly conditioned.” And in this way, you come back into a more spacious awareness.

With vipassana, then, we pay close attention to each object arising and passing away, and the whole flow of predominant objects, some pleasant, some unpleasant. We begin to see deeply into the old pattern that you have had for eons. And there may be an “Aha!” moment. “I've been doing it this way forever. When somebody cuts me off, I curse. Maybe I don't have to do that. What if, when somebody cuts me off, I breathe and note, ‘This person is impatient. This person isn't being careful.', and I sent out a loving wish to them, ‘May you be safe. May you be happy.'?” Here we begin to allow the shift the old patterns and open to a new and more wholesome pattern.

We can look at the traditional stages of right effort, from the sutras. The effort to prevent unwholesome mind states that are not yet risen from arising; cause to cease unwholesome mind states already arisen; cause to arise wholesome mind states not yet arisen; and develop wholesome mind states already present.

This is a core part of our vipassana practice, the watching of the whole flow of wholesome and unwholesome mind states, and knowing that you have the capacity for the wholesome states. You have the capacity to release and move beyond the unwholesome states. These are not bad; they are simply the result of conditions. You do not need to build a solid self upon them.

As you practice in this way, there will come that “Aha!” moment, when you suddenly see, “This anger has arisen out of conditions, and I don't have to be identified with it. I can take care of it. I attend to it. But it's not me.” This hand, the body skandha, it's not me. It's not the same body I saw yesterday. The mind is not me. It keeps changing. It's simply an aggregate. And the same with the mind.,

All of the skandhas are like this. The hardest one to understand is consciousness, because with consciousness you think, “The consciousness is me.” Kind consciousness. Angry consciousness. Awake consciousness. Sleepy consciousness. It is all the outflow of conditions.

Well then, if you are not your consciousness, what remains? If you are not any of the skandhas, what remains? If you look at your body under a microscope, look closely at one cell in your hand, and you find a lot of movement and little things within that cell, then you wash your hand and that cell flakes off, it's gone. It wasn't here to begin with. You scrub the hands well. They're different hands now. It's gone. The mind, thoughts arising; let's scrub the mind. Rinse it with pure water. Some of those thoughts go. You've never been the aggregates.

One of the beauties of vipassana is that as you practice, you reach a stage where the mind begins to settle in, picking up each object as it is first arising, like sitting on the shore of a fairly calm ocean. In the distance, watching the first swell of a wave beginning to arise, and then coming toward you, and finally cresting and splashing down on the shore. And then it flows out to sea. Was there ever anything there other than the ocean? Now a new wave is coming in, and a new one. And you look up in the sky and there's a cloud. There's really nothing there but sky. It's water vapor. We look at it and say cloud, fleecy cloud, storm cloud. Are the cloud and wave separate?

In meditation, as your vipassana practice settles, you gain the ability to watch each arising object-- physical, emotional, mental, perceptive, et cetera-- without self-identification with it. It may still be pleasant or unpleasant, that's okay, but eventually there is no reactivity. There's no pushing it away if it's unpleasant. There's no grasping if it's pleasant. The mind just quiets into this space where each object pops up and goes, pops up and goes, pops up and goes. And instead of fixating on the objects, the gaze turns in to the watcher. If the watcher is not consciousness, what is it? Suddenly we start to experience what we call awareness. This naked awareness exists, independent of any separate self. This is the universal awareness in which you each participate, but it is not your awareness, it's simply awareness.

So we've been looking up close with a microscope at the tiny cells, and suddenly we step back. We switch the end of the microscope so we're seeing at a distance—the hand projected out there. The whole universe out there. The hand hasn't disappeared. The hand is still there, flying around with all those billions of stars, the vast universe. Suddenly we see things in perspective. This vast spaciousness, and all of the facets of body aggregate, mental aggregate, emotional aggregate, thoughts, et cetera, and consciousness, just out there amongst the stars. And all we can do is just sigh, ahhh... because it's such a restful space to be.

Now, if I'm doing that and I hit my cup of tea and it spills, it doesn't have to bring me back into a separate self that scolds and says, “Look how clumsy you are.” Just, where is the towel? Wipe it up. We attend to the conditions in which we participate. We attend to them even more skillfully from the perspective of awareness than we can from mundane mindfulness because there's no sense of separation from anything.

Barbara had an interesting meditative experience this morning. She has a beautiful hibiscus tree in her office, and over the summer some of the branches had grown up to ten feet tall. Lots of small side branches branching out, so it was growing gangly instead of containing its energy within its pot. After meditating this morning, she approached the tree with a clipper and asked it, “Would you like me to clip you?” It was her, asking the plant. And she got a shrinking back, as if she were going to attack the plant. She realized she needed to move into an awareness field, to become the tree. So she just held the tree, eyes open, breathed for about five minutes, and the whole sense of separate self, separate tree, fell away, until she was the tree. And then she took each branch in her clipper, and her hand just knew where to clip. And she could almost feel the plant sigh, “Ahhh, thank you.” This one? “Ahh, thank you.” That one? “Mmm, let's keep that one.” But it wasn't the tree talking to Barbara or Barbara commanding the tree. It was one level of awareness coming together and saying, “This is for the highest good of this plant,” out of love. What is needed here? So the plant is skillfully and joyfully pruned, and wriggling in its new spaciousness.

You are literally one with everything. From the perspective of vipassana and mundane consciousness, there are separate beings. From the perspective of awareness there is nothing separate. 2

Some of you have believed that you have to come back to the mundane level to attend to mundane things. For example, Barbara had been meditating and then she came back to mundane consciousness to attend to this very leggy plant. But this wasn't the way. And the plant itself instructed her, “No, come back and be me. Don't be Barbara cutting me and asking what to cut. That's one way to do it, but why not just be me? Be here completely with me. Feel as you hold your arm up, at what point the energy listens, at what point the cut is appropriate. We're together in this.” Mundane consciousness and awareness, mingled together.

So I don't want you to make a strong distinction between vipassana and pure awareness. I want you to see how they fit together. There is a smooth transition. If you sit on the ground, you as self looking up at the stars with your naked eye or with a telescope, there's going to be an observer and a star. What happens when you just lie on your back and look out, and suddenly the sense of self and other disappears?

The hard thing for people is learning that you can attend to the world from this place of spacious awareness. I believe D sent out in her notes from the last class the statement that when this is deeply understood, there is no longer a need to divide the practice into view, meditation, and action. When you fully understand the nature of emptiness of all mundane objects, all empty of self, and yet all filled with the same divine awareness, the same radiant awareness, then you act not from an “I should do this,” not from the mundane level, but because you're resting in this view of emptiness and spaciousness and intention to kindness, the actions flow seamlessly. But yes, it takes practice. Your vipassana practice is an important core.

I've described the place where suddenly there may be pleasant and unpleasant sensations, but no grasping or aversion. And everything is just popping up, fading away, popping up, fading away. The traditional texts call this phase of practice “access concentration,” because from there you have access into the whole experience of emptiness and the direct experience of what remains when you are not self-identified with the aggregates. You have access into the higher vipassana insights. I know some of you have experienced access concentration. It's not something for which you can set an intention and strive, “Now I will have access concentration.” because there's too much self in that. It flows naturally. As you practice, it comes. But once you open into the experience of access concentration, even briefly, you find that you are simply resting in awareness.

So we do the practice from the beginning, of resting in awareness, so that when you're in access concentration and suddenly there's a dissolution of the body and the ego, instead of saying, “What happened? Where did I go?” you just say, “Ahh, I'm into that spaciousness. I'm not afraid, because I know that spaciousness from pure awareness practice.”

I've used the illustration sometimes. Imagine it was a very foggy day so that you couldn't see more than a few feet ahead of you, and I said, “Let's take a walk.” We climbed up a steep hill where you could hear the ocean waves breaking below you; we came to the edge of a cliff and I said, “Now jump.” Could you jump? A bit scary, isn't it? What is this whole experience of no self? Will I annihilate myself?

But if instead, as we approach this ocean, I lead you down a path to a beach. You still can't see very far, only a few feet, but we can see the waves coming in. I say, “Come swim with me.” The waves are not crashing against a huge wall and going to toss you against the wall, they're small waves, manageable waves. We swim through the breakers and around where the waves are just softly lapping against the cliff. You can feel the cliff going up. I point out to you the cliff top is up there. You can't see it through the mist but it's up there. There are no rocks. There's nothing dangerous here. This is the ocean. Now let's go back up the hill to the cliff top. Still can't see anything. Can you jump a bit easier now? A little bit. Jump! You reenter where you just were.

So we find these different ways of approaching this experience we call emptiness, which does not mean that you are annihilated. It doesn't mean you cease to be. It simply means the identification with the skandhas dissolves and you understand suddenly, “I am this. I am the ocean. I am the sky. I am everybody in the circle. I am the hibiscus plant that needed pruning. I am that.” And we participate with such joy in this circle of undifferentiated awareness. Gradually we become able to live from this awareness. But when something shakes you out, come back to the breath. Come back to the vipassana practice. Ground yourself with vipassana.

So this is my basic talk. They are two parts of one practice. One deals more with mundane consciousness, kuttara citta, and the other deals more with supramundane citta, lokuttara citta. But they are not kuttara citta here, lokuttara citta here, they are one spectrum. As an example of that, imagine I take you out on a rowboat on a lake. There are a lot of leaves and turbulence in the water, and you can't see the bottom. There are ripples in the water. You can only see three inches down. The bottom is there, it's always been there, but we cannot see it. We sit here. The waves die down. The leaves that were on the surface wash away. The water becomes still. And suddenly you can see straight down to the bottom.

As we shift from focusing, grounding ourselves only in mundane citta, to balance between mundane and supramundane, we start to see how they interrelate. You have bodies. You have minds. You will have physical experiences. You will have thoughts. We're not trying to get rid of those. But your suffering arises with the self-identity with them. You can live from the pure awareness mind and heart. When you are there and I am there, we're in the same place. It's joyful and it's free.

Thank you for this opportunity to share with you.

Q: It's tough for me to understand this stuff. Consciousness always has to have an object, right?

Aaron: Every consciousness has an object, mundane or supramundane consciousness. Mundane consciousness takes a mundane object. Eye, a mundane sense organ, makes contact with a table and seeing consciousness arises, which is a mundane object, mundane consciousness. Mundane consciousness cannot take a supramundane object. The mundane physical senses, the mundane mental senses. This is why no matter how much intellectual study one does, one cannot have an experience of the Unconditioned through the intellect. It's only when the supramundane citta, the lokuttara citta, open that-- those citta must also take an object, but they can take a supramundane object, such as the Unconditioned.

Q: Does awareness take an object? Must it?

Aaron: Awareness it supramundane citta! Yes it takes an object. But sometimes it's not a specific object. It doesn't have to be a clock or a tree. It can simply take spaciousness or nada as its object. It can take emptiness as its object.

Q: Is awareness the same as supramundane consciousness?

Aaron: Yes, exactly. But because supramundane consciousness is a mouthful, and because people become confused, we have simply used the terms consciousness versus awareness. Consciousness meaning mundane consciousness, awareness meaning supramundane awareness, or supramundane consciousness. So we shift. In the beginning we're in the boat and eye sees leaves and fish floating past, mundane objects. Nose smells the campfire burning. And then the whole lake becomes still. The sun is setting. There's not a breath on the water. The water is clear. And suddenly you see down to the bottom. You're no longer seeing this wave or ripple, that leaf, that fish; the whole lake bottom is there.

Q: It sounds like consciousness is limited by the objects it takes and awareness has no limit.

Aaron: Correct. I would say it differently, though. Consciousness is limited because consciousness is geared toward taking an object, and consciousness can only take one object at a time. You remember Ajahn Chah's story about falling out of a tree. You can't be aware of each branch as you go down, just crash! The sutras spell it out very precisely, and the Abhidharma spells it out. One consciousness arises at a time. So consciousness may seem like, “I see this, I see that, I see that,” but it's a sequence, because each consciousness takes one specific object.

Supramundane consciousness also takes one object, which is the Unconditioned and its expressions, but it's capable of seeing the vast field of the Unconditioned and its expressions in one moment. It may focus on one expression. It may hear nada or feel spaciousness or see luminosity. These are direct expressions of the Unconditioned. But from there it's an easier step into opening it up.

Q: It's not limited by the one at a time?

Aaron: It's not limited by the one at a time, but there's still some consciousness. What's happening is when you're resting in awareness and you hear nada, there's a subtle stream of mundane consciousness still hearing, still attuned. But as that breaks down, suddenly the hearing of nada and luminosity and spaciousness and all the other expressions of the Unconditioned come together.

It's beautiful! And then you rest in that place where I know you have rested. Just experiencing that, there's no sense of a separate self.

Q: Well, that's it. I'm not there.

Aaron: But you've tasted it. So you understand, even though it's not stable yet.

Q: In supramundane consciousness, is the akashic field involved in that process?

Aaron: The akashic field is an object, not a consciousness. The akashic field is a supramundane object that can be perceived by awareness but cannot be perceived by mundane consciousness. This is why we're going the direction we're going in the class. If you want to be able to work within the akashic field, if you want to be able to work with subtle energies, if you want to be able to attune to your guides and so forth, you need to be able to distinguish between mundane and supramundane consciousness and to understand consciousness and what supports the supramundane. I am not devaluing vipassana practice. It's a tool that works for deepening access to freedom from reactivity, and leads to fullest awakening. But if your intention is to open to the akashic field, to more subtle energies and so forth, then you need to stabilize supramundane awareness. You are well served to understand the distinction between them, and how to balance between them.

Q: You use a canister with a bear to demonstrate keeping a toe in the Unconditioned. Would an example of that be keeping an awareness of nada throughout the day? Or luminosity or spaciousness?

Aaron: Exactly. That keeps a toe in supramundane awareness. It keeps a toe in the ultimate so that you don't lose touch with the ultimate. There was a period of Barbara's practice when it seemed 50 times a day I would ask her, where is rigpa? Rigpa is the Tibetan phrasing for supramundane consciousness or pure awareness. Where is rigpa? She'd get caught up in something and I'd stop her and say, “ Take a deep breath; where is rigpa? Come back, come back.” Ahhh... Just opening up into that spaciousness, and then resuming what she was doing. It may have been necessary to be very grounded in mundane consciousness to do what she was doing-- perhaps cooking, measuring ingredients, being aware of this spice, that seasoning, this object, how long it has to cook, timing. These all take mundane consciousness. But if you close up and lose all spaciousness, you're going to spoil the soup. If you make the soup from spaciousness, it will taste better. But also, if you zone out completely, you're going to burn everything.

One of the gifts of being human is the growing ability to hold together these two levels of presence. Resting in supramundane awareness is easy on the non-physical plane between lifetimes. It's easy to rest in that spaciousness. There's not any strong sense of a separate self, on that plane. But you've come here knowing this earth is a heavy vibrational body. There are many heavy vibrational humans, a lot of fear and anger and so forth, and you've come to help transform the earth and help bring it through a transition into a higher consciousness. You can't do that from outside of it; you've got to get into it. But you can't get lost in it. Thus the balance that Q just spoke of.

There's a beautiful story about a Zen teacher, an older man sitting at a table with his students in a room where there were windows open around the room. They had piles of notes stacked on the table. There was one important note;  somebody had just put it down. A breeze blew in and whipped the paper, picked it up and carried it across the room. Ten people just sat and watched it. People had been smiling at the old Zen master, who was sitting there with his eyes closed. Pointing to him, “He's sleeping.” So the paper blew from that end of the room. His eyes were still closed. He opened them, grabbed the paper, put it down, put something down on top of it to hold it in place, and closed his eyes again. I find this a priceless example, and a true story.

So, we practice this balance. And it comes in its own expression in all traditions. He was expressing it very well.

Q: So when I have experienced what I believe could be called the Unconditioned, it has felt so joyful and sweet. However, joy and sweetness seem themselves to be conditions.

Aaron: Yes, joy and sweetness arise from conditions, and themselves may serve as conditions for future arising. Recognize that there are unconditioned and conditioned levels of what you call joy and sweetness. Let's not worry about it. If it's joyful, know it's joyful. And if that experience goes, it probably goes because there's some subtle grasping at the joy. And then you slip out of that awareness and into a more conditioned self. So just note the experience, “Joy. Pleasant. Grasping. Breathing in, I am aware of the grasping. Breathing out, I release the grasping. I come back to spaciousness. I come back to the joy, again.”

Other questions or sharing?

Q: As a clarification, when you said that consciousness is one of the stickier aggregates...

Aaron: ...okay, “stickier” meaning harder to recognize as not of the nature of self, as opposed to body and mental aggregate that you quickly recognize as conditioned. It's not that it's more sticky, it's more difficult to discern, “This is not me.” Most of you have come to a point in your practice where when a thought arises you know, “Okay, it arose from conditions. It's not me.” Liking arises. It arose out of conditions. It's not me. Perception arises. The same. But when consciousness arises, it's much harder. Who is experiencing this consciousness? You're very linked into consciousness itself. But if you look at it, you'll see it fall apart.

I'm going to ask Barbara to find something in a very old journal and mail it out to the class. This is over 20 years ago. She was at Pt. Pelee, a National Park in Canada. The point juts far out into Lake Erie. She was out at the very tip.



Waves were coming in from one side. It was only 10 feet wide where she was, so some waves were actually breaking over the sand and flowing out the other side. She lay down on the sand slope with her head right at the top. She could see the waves coming in. This is 1989, when I was first teaching her about the aggregates. SAhe spent a very fruitful day watching each wave and saying, “Okay, I can see the form aggregate in that, and there's nothing but water. I can feel the power in that wave as energy. But it's nothing but water.” She went through each of the aggregates. But when it came to consciousness, she felt stuck for a while. She persisted, and I think she writes about it very clearly. So it may help to clarify it for you.

Suddenly she had the insight, even the consciousness aggregate is impermanent and not self. And then the fear: “If I'm not my consciousness, what am I?”

Q: Well, exactly. What? What are we?

Aaron: “What am I?” What are you? That's why we work with awareness. You are radiant awareness.

Q: Okay. You're saying consciousness is not awareness. Awareness is different.

Aaron: Consciousness is (sound effect), awareness is that. Awareness is infinite, broad awareness. Consciousness is (inaudible). So we have seeing consciousness, thinking consciousness, planning consciousness, liking consciousness, aversive consciousness, touching consciousness. These are all mundane consciousness. When you slip back into broad awareness, you let go of identification with the aggregates, and what remains? Tell me, what remains? If you're not your body, your mind, your thoughts, feelings, what remains?

Q: Awareness.

Q: Being.

Q: Isness.

Aaron: What else? What remains?

Q: Energy.

Aaron: All the direct expressions of the Unconditioned. Spaciousness remains. The experience of non-separation. How about love? I don't mean romantic love; the love that can only come when you know you are everything. You can only truly love something when-- Jeshua said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He's not talking about mundane consciousness, “I love that.” He's talking about arriving at that level of awareness where you know your neighbor is yourself. At that point, how can you not love your neighbor and yourself? You are the world. You're the trees, the seas, the sky. The heart opens to the wonder of it all..

What else? What do you experience in that empty spaciousness?

Q: Joy.

Aaron: Joy. Not mundane happiness, but a different kind of expansive joy. Anybody want to add anything to that?

Q: I would just like to say that I think we are all learning that it's not one or the other. We can be here on this plane in this reality and also be open to everything.

Aaron: Exactly. If you get nothing else out of this class, this is what I hope you will get. This is the bear and the two cylinders. It's not only that you can be; it's that if you're going to fulfill your purpose in the incarnation, you need to learn how to be. But you can't strive after it; you can only relax into it.

Quietness or stillness is another quality.  When you go into the place where nothing is arising and nothing is ceasing, there's infinite peace, profound peace. And yet at the same time, everything is arising and passing away, but it's simply the outplay of conditions. You enter the stillness at the core and you rest in that stillness. And you learn how to learn from that stillness. Don't become discouraged when you cannot do it perfectly. You're learning.

Other questions?

Q: So when we die, we drop the body and everything with it. But does awareness go with us?

Aaron: It depends on your practice. It depends. For somebody who has done no meditation practice of any sort and dies, let's say with pain or some kid of turbulence, they can become very stuck in mundane consciousness and move through the bardos and into a new incarnation without ever having touched that place of awareness. If there is no experience of awareness in the human lifetime, it may not be accessible with passing from the body.

But when you have practiced, so that during the process of dying there is awareness of the body disintegrating, of objects passing away, of fear arising and passing away, and you've developed the stability in your vipassana practice just to note everything, let it go and not form a self-identity with it, then full awakening is possible during that dying process. If you don't have full awakening at that time, you still come to rest in this much more spacious awareness.

So for those who have not done any practice, the transition is just like being caught in a wave and rolled up onto the shore and swept back into the ocean, and rolled up again and swept back into the ocean, over and over. Finally you learn, “I can stand up.” How many times do you have to be swept through the rough surf before you can learn there's a capacity to stand up? Not to be caught up in the motions of the wave. Then you begin to wake up. All of you here have experienced that. All of you here, you would not be here in this kind of class if you were not in the process of waking up. And that means in prior lifetimes, when you died, there was some period of resting in awareness, and-- dare I say consciously?-- formulating the intentions for the next lifetime. But the heart of this is your vipassana practice.

Other questions? (decision to move into a break)

I have not participated in these classes so much before in this semester. I have felt the lack that I have not participated. I would be happy to participate more. I did not want to take over the class. And I felt that there were important, more mundane things you were learning. But perhaps we're coming to a point where it's more useful for me to participate more fully. (Everyone is happy with that.) So next class I'll be back.

Before I leave the body, I want to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, and to bring forth the importance of the celebration, because gratitude is such a heart-opening emotion. It gives you an opportunity to touch on this essence of your being, on the deep unconditioned core of your being through the experience of gratitude. So don't let it just be a holiday in name, “Oh, it's Thanksgiving.” but really explore what you are thankful for, and with the feelings of gratitude.

Q: I have another question before you go, I'm sorry. We are always being taught it's very important to raise our consciousness. But maybe those words are wrong.

Aaron: I think those words are incorrect.

Q: It's not higher consciousness.

Aaron: Your highest consciousness is always there. You are rather wiping the soot off the window, letting the light in. You are not raising anything; you are becoming aware of the ever-present higher consciousness that you have pushed away.

Q: So we're raising our awareness.

Aaron: You're not raising your awareness, either. You're simply opening to that which has always been there. Daughter, your house has a beautiful view of the lake. What if you had lived in that house for 20 years and never turned in that direction? People said to you, “D, your house has such a beautiful view.” “Well, it looks out on the woods, and I see the driveway. It's pretty. But the lake, well, I'm not really sure what ‘lake' is.” And suddenly one day you turn around. “Oh!” It's always been there. You've never connected with it before.

When they use the term “raising consciousness.” I would use the term instead “opening to the light within.” It's not even that, because opening is still too much of a doing. Awakening to the light within. Appreciating the light within. Noticing the light within. Just touching base with it. Most of you are so busy in your mundane lives that you push away this core experience of being.

To me, one of the greatest gifts of vipassana practice is opening to true being. If you stick with it, you will reach a point where everything begins to dissolve. Suddenly the whole world around you is dissolving, and there's terror, “I can't hold on to anything.” As you move through that terror by noting it, “Here is terror. It's also arisen from conditions,” the whole of conditioned arising and ceasing falls away, and there's profound experience of this core of being, of the Unconditioned. Once you touch that experience you really can't forget it again. You may not hold it stably, but you understand it, and you live your life with a different view—you know that beautiful scene is behind you, even if you still forget to look. It changes everything. And gradually with repetitive experiences it becomes stable.

This is why, from the very beginning with Barbara and some of you,  25 years ago, I brought together meditation, vipassana, and exploring, “Who am I? Why am I here?” Not just through vipassana but through a wide range of tools. But, centering our investigation in vipassana. For me, this is the path to freedom. The Buddha spoke of his “handful of leaves; this is all you need to know,” and that is still true. It is all you NEED to know.  But we're 2,500 years past the Buddha's time, you are old souls with a lot more understanding, and it's valuable to have a much wider framework rather than be just Theravada Buddhist practitioners. Nothing against Theravada practitioners, but we're not trying to develop Theravada Buddhists. We're trying to help you wake up. Vipassana is one of the tools, a very vital tool. But it fits together with all the other tools. Resting in Pure Awareness; remembering who you are; knowing the heart essence of your being; knowing the divinity of everything. Watch how fear arises and move through fear to see what's on the other side. Watch how aversion arises and move through that. What remains. Who and what are you?  It's so beautiful. And the end result truly is freedom. You're no longer caught in karma.

My blessings and love to all of you. Thank you and we will talk again next class.

(session ends)

1 There is, monks, an unborn[1] — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.[2]

2 From Barbara while reviewing the transcript. One of the things I find beautiful about the non-duality teachings is that they occur in all traditions, not just in Buddhism.  This is a favorite book called Open Secrets, by Rabbi Rami Shapiro.  He writes it as if it was letters from a rabbi in the old country to his student in this country.  They are very beautiful non-duality teachings which he says are part of traditional Jewish teaching.  

Some would argue that God is a divine spark inside each being.  Others would argue that God is above and outside creation.  I teach neither position.  God is not inside or outside.  God is the very thing itself.  And when there is no thing but only empty space, God is that as well.  Picture a bowl in your mind.  Define the bowl.  Is it just the clay that forms the bowl or the empty space that fills with soup?  Without the space, the bowl is useless.  Without the walls the bowl is useless.  So which is the bowl?  The answer is both.  To be a bowl it must have both being - the walls, and emptiness - the space.  It is the same with God.  For God to be God, for God to be all, God must manifest as being, Yesh, and emptiness, Ayin.  Yesh is the manifestation of God that appears to us as separate entities - physical, spiritual and psychological.  Ayin is the manifestation of God that reveals all separation to be illusory: everything is simply God in differing forms.  God is all.  There is nothing else.  This teaching is called shlemut, the completeness of God.  To be shlemut, God must contain all possibilities and paradox.  To be shlemut, God must transcend the notion of opposites and reveal everything as complementary.  God must be both Yesh and Ayin, being and emptiness, simultaneously.  Yesh and Ayin both reside in and are expressions of God's wholeness, shlemut.  These three terms are crucial to understanding God and almost everything else.  It is vital to everything we will discuss that you understand these three words.  They are the key to your spiritual awakening and tranquility.  Learn them well.